“Sho Asano & Ensemble” Tour in Baltic States

Banner of Sho Asano & Ensemble Tour in Baltic States

The Japan Foundation presents traditional Japanese music concerts to tour around Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) in early autumn, 2011.

Artists participating in this concert tour will be a troupe led by Sho Asano from Sendai, Tsugaru shamisen player, which is specially constituted for this event. By the time he was 14, Asano won the prestigious All-Japan Tsugaru Shamisen Championship, becoming the competitions - youngest champion. Since then, he has been active as a professional shamisen player while studying at a university.

The concert consists of two parts. In the first part, Asano presents spectacular and mellow performance to mainly feature Minyo inherited in Tohoku region in collaboration with Kasumi, Hiromi Hori, Koshi Tsukuda (shakuhachi, shinobue), and Yoshiume Ishikawa (Tsugaru-teodori or Tsugaru hand dance). In the second part, Asano presents session with Shoji Morifuji (piano) and Go Nakazawa (drum). This concert will deliver a new appeal of Tsugaru shamisen through original numbers and jazz standard numbers.

This event is to be held as a part of "The 20th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and Baltic States" designated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

♪Message from Sho Asano♪

Minyo is the music emerged from daily life of ordinary Japanese people. Words of Minyo include numerous phrases to express unique feeling from the perspective of Japanese people. For example, Japanese people express our gratitude to people or nature before and after meals, saying "Itadakimasu" or "Gochisosamadeshita". This is because we consider that we may have food and drinks thanks to farmers, fishermen, nature, families, relatives, friends and masters. This tradition is peculiar to Japanese people inherited from our ancestors. Minyo which expresses this unchangeable attitude of Japanese people indicates our spirit, and characteristics of Japanese people or furthermore human being in a broader sense.

The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11. Many people revalued "connection among people" which used to be left behind the times, and tried to find out what we can do for the society. In addition, we have been encouraged and moved by people around the world with warm-hearted messages, and realized that "We are the same human being. We are connected".

These days, Minyo is considered something "outdated" or "unfashionable" for only the elderly. However, it is meaningful for young artists like us to take over and disseminate the tradition of Minyo, which contains the original human state.

I think it is time for all the people to help each other as Minyo suggests. I am determined to perform with heart and soul, which are filled with ideas and wisdoms shared by our ancestors or to make us chuckle. By doing so, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to people around the world.

Finally, I would like to say "Thank you" to all the people whom I will meet during the concert tour.

Sho Asano

Term: September 12 (Fri.) to September 20 (Fri.)

Jõhvi (Estonia)
Date: September 12 (Mon.), 6:00 p.m.
Venue: Jõhvi Concert Hall Chamber Hall (in Estonian)
Co-organizer: Embassy of Japan in Estonia
Cooperation: Estonia Concert Hall, Estonia-Japan Association
Tallinn (Estonia)
Date: September 13 (Tue.), 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Estonia Concert Hall (in Estonian)
Co-organizer: Embassy of Japan in Estonia
Cooperation: Estonia Concert Hall, Estonia-Japan Association
Liepāja (Latvia)
Date: September 15 (Tur.), 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Liepaja Latvian Society House
Co-organizer: Embassy of Japan in Latvia, Liepāja Latvian Society
Rīga (Latvia)
Date: September 17 (Sat.), 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Riga Latvian Society House (in Latvian and English)
Co-organizer: Embassy of Japan in Latvia, Riga Latvian Society
Kaunas (Lithuania)
Date: September 19 (Mon.), 7:00 p.m.
Venue: “Girstutis” Culture and Sport Centre (in Lithuanian)
Co-organizer: Embassy of Japan in Lithuania, “Girstutis” Culture and Sport Centre
Vilnius (Lithuania)
Date: September 20 (Tue.), 6:30 p.m.
Venue: Dance Theatre (in Lithuanian)
Co-organizer: Embassy of Japan in Lithuania, Dance Theatre


Sho Asano: Tsugaru Shamisen (Right in the picture)

Photo of Sho ASANO

Influenced by his grandfather, he started learning Tsugaru shamisen at age five. By the time he was 14, Asano won the prestigious All-Japan Tsugaru Shamisen Championship, becoming the competitions- youngest champion ever in 2004, and then won it for three consecutive years. Asano caught the attention of Victor Entertainment who later released his debut album "Sho-fu" (wind of Sho) in March, 2007. In March 2008, he presented a solo concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. His second album will be released in August 2008. Many interviews by the media have hailed Asano as the most talented and influential musician of his age.

Official Website

Kasumi: Minyo(Center in the picture)

Born in Nikko city in Tochigi prefecture, Kasumi won the Junior Grand Prize at Tohoku Minyo Competition. She was featured by a TV documentary program and broadcast nationally. In 2008, Kasumi won the 54th Minyo Grand Prix Competition hosted by Aomori Broadcasting Corporation, becoming the competitions’ youngest champion. Kasumi represented Japan as a minyo artist for Shanghai Expo 2010. She has been vigorously active not only on stages but also on TV and radio programs by mainly focusing on Tsugaru minyo including Tsugaru shamisen and enka as well.

Hiromi Hori: Minyo, Taiko (Left in the picture)

Born in Chiba city in Chiba prefecture, she started learning minyo, shamisen and nihonbuyo (Japanese traditional dance) at age four influenced by her mother. She started studying to improve her skills under shakuhachi master Tanzo Hori at age nineteen and minyo master Ryoko Soga at age twenty four. Hori won Chakkiri-bushi National Championship Competition in 2006. Since then, she has won numerous minyo competitions and joined international cultural exchange programs.

Koshi Tsukuda: Shakuhachi, Shinobue

Official Website

Photo of Koshi TsukudaSince he was very young, Tokyo-born Tsukuda has strived to improve his skills under his father Issei Tsukuda, an accomplished shakuhachi musician. After joining Kaze (Tsugaru shamisen ensemble) led by a master Tsugaru shamisen player Yujiro Takahashi, Tsukuda gained experience through numerous domestic and overseas performances. His dedication towards his music involves constantly improving his skills that have won him great respect from other high level performers. Currently, Tsukuda is a member of the Tsugaru shamisen troupe “Kaze”, as well as the ensemble with Japanese drummers Wawon, and the Japanese folk music group Chanchiki.

Yoshiume Ishikawa: Tsugaru-teodori or Tsugaru Hand Dance

Photo of Yoshiume IshikawaBorn in Aomori prefecture, Ishikawa is the 34th Tsugaru teodori master. She won Aomori Teodori Master Championship Competition, Team Category in 1997, 1999 and 2007, and took the second place in Individual Category in 2000 and 2003. Since then, Ishikawa has won numerous teodori and kumiodori competitions. In 2005, she became the master of Ishikawa-soke.

Shoji Morifuji: Piano

Photo of Shoji MorifujiMorifuji started his music career when he was a high school student. He studied under a renowned pianist Junko Miyagi, and thereafter studied under Professor Hiroyuki Namba at Keio University. He was engaged in synthesizer program, performance, arrangement. Recently, Morifuji has been actively joining record producing, concerts, stages, live performances for performing arts. In addition, he frequently gives live performances at clubs in Tokyo as a member of music unit “Flaque” organized by himself.

Go Nakazawa: Drum

Photo of Go NakazawaBorn in Yokohama in 1974, Nakazawa started learning drum influenced by rock band at age fifteen. After graduating from high school, he went to the US to improve his skills. He studied under a distinguished drummer Joe Porcaro and Joel Taylor. After coming back to Japan, Nakazawa worked as a back band member of numeral artists such as Japanese famous singers of Yuki Koyanagi and Porno Graffitti. Furthermore, his performance has been acclaimed at many musicals, including ones for Shiki Theatre Company. He also joins guitar & vocal duo “Fried Pried” as a percussionist to showcase innovative performance. Nakazawa works as a regular member of Naoko Terai Quartet to perform for concerts and recording.

  • Hiroshi Nitta: Sound Engineer
  • Mari Watanabe: Stage manager
  • Satoshi Harada: Producer
  • Masayuki Noda: Recording director

[Contact Us]

The Japan Foundation, Arts and Culture Dept., Performing Arts Section
Person in charge:Takeda
Tel. 03-5369-6063 Fax. 03-5369-6038

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